You know when you have a box full of sweets but you’ve lost the key to the flavours? You dig a hand in and grab a couple of lurid foil wrapped choccies and the first one is one of those luscious caramels, but the next is a fruit cream tasting of detergent. It’s a horror we’ve all had.
That was what eating at Ozlem was like. Lurching from the good to the crap via the decidedly average, dinner at this Dalston Turkish joint threw up a really really mixed bag of a meal.
After reading about Ozlem online I gathered in Dalston with Tom, Jen, Uyen, Simon and Mathilde expecting great things. And what I had heard was good was on the whole pretty good. But once we ventured off the (very narrow) beaten track it all went sliding downhill. Quickly.
The foodie grapevine said this was the place for Lahmacun. And the pizza-like Turkish street snacks were certainly very tasty. A thin and crispy base covered with a slender layer of minced lamb. The base was just right and the topping full of fresh herbs and zingy tomatoes that really enhanced the lamb. It’s the best I’ve eaten in London.
Mixed mezze wasn’t bad, although they really like their garlic. After eating that, I could have walked unharmed through the most dangerous parts of Baghdad protected by an impenetrable green-tinged garlic forcefield.
For me this unbalanced the hummus. I like mine a little nuttier, a little thicker and slightly milder so that you can taste the sesame and chickpeas. The baba ganoush was likewise afflicted, although here the chargrilled smoky aubergine stood nose-nose to with the astringent garlic, fighting it to a stalemate. Of the rest, the chilli sauce was suitably hot, the fava beans were tasty and the kisir full of herbs and delicious.
We were filling up after a large pile of Lahmacun and probably should have stopped while we were ahead. One cop shish aside, mains veered from a bland and boring Imam Biyaldi (a roast aubergine and tomato dish that should be luxurious and bursting with flavour), to dry and claggy lamb loins and a fat drenched mess of an Iskander (lamb and yoghurt dish).
The cop shish on the other hand was well cooked. Nuggets of lamb were moist with just the touch of a crust. And they tasted really good. But what happened to the rest? Lamb loin should have been moist and pink with golden fat, not tough and arid.
It meant that five food lovers, not known for either their small appetite or restraint in the face of food, left quite a lot unfinished. This is almost unheard of and a real shame, because Ozlem showed patches of good cooking. But they were snuffed out pretty quickly by a wave of averageness.
There are much better Turkish places five minutes away. let alone in London. If I came again, I’d stick to the Lahmacun, and maybe a kebab, but stay well clear of the mains. They even make aubergine boring,
Oh yes, and the large empty canteen-like space had a less atmosphere than an aircraft hanger. Thank goodness for the company, they made sure the food and atmosphere didn’t impact on the evening.
It came to about £17 a head including a beer so it wasn’t like we spent much. It was just a shame it was so bland.